How to integrate a new employee when working from home

We know that a good onboarding process for new hires is vital – and it’s an area that firms often struggle to do well. To add to the challenge, organisations are now finding themselves adapting their existing processes for remote delivery.  Some are finding this an easier transition than others. Our partner, the FAIRR Initiative, has recently hired a candidate via The Return Hub, Teni Ekundare, and her experience demonstrates that remote onboarding needn’t be problematic. 

Here are some of our and FAIRR’s top recommendations on how to integrate a new hire when you can’t all be in the office.  

Plan 

Test technology regularly so that you’re prepared should the need arise.   

Before you even consider taking on a new team member in lockdown, let’s take a step back.  Hindsight is a wonderful thing, we know, but one of the positive steps FAIRR took was to plan.   

Once it was clear that COVID-19 was approaching, they started to consider their working from home policy and business continuity planning.  Technology was tested to ensure it was robust and employees checked that laptops worked well at home.  The government had not provided guidelines at this point but FAIRR was already considering the safety of its employees and in particular their commutes on public transport.  They quickly moved to 100% working from home which, for Sonia Alexandrenne, who was placed with FAIRR by The Return Hub and had started just two weeks before lockdown, was welcome.   

“I liked that they were proactive rather than reactive and due to their planning, it didn’t come as a big shock when we were all told to work remotely.”Sonia Alexandrenne 

Communication 

Communication is always important when you’re in the office and it’s even more critical when working remotely.  It’s a way for people to feel connected and if they live alone, hear another voice or see another face.  Video conferencing has never been more popular but instant messaging services are also useful tools that team members can communicate with creating a sense of immediacy.  It will never replace the human interaction of popping over to someone’s desk to ask a question but tools such as messaging in Microsoft Teams and Slack, allow a more free-flowing conversation than you can achieve with email.  

The teams at FAIRR have regular video meetings scheduled in their calendars, some daily and some weekly.  The Return Hub placement Teni Ekundare who started at FAIRR during lockdown and hasn’t met any of her colleagues in person, also has a daily half hour meeting with her manager, Maria, at the end of every working day.  She finds this an extremely helpful part of her integration and appreciates the daily sounding board opportunity saying:   

I feel a little guilty that our new starters can’t ask questions easily as we’re not all in the office so I try to recreate the office environment by making myself as available as I can. 

Technology 

Robust technology and an experienced technology team are essential when all team members are working from home and this has paid dividends at FAIRR.  

One of the details that Teni really appreciated as she started in lockdown was the seamlessness of the new technology with which she was faced.  A new laptop was delivered to her at home and at the touch of a button, she was into the systems without a glitch!  No more video conferencing on her phone!  

The benefit of this was twofold: Teni didn’t feel forgotten, she felt part of the team and valuedintegrated and motivatedalso, instant tech access meant that she could get on with doing her job, another step towards integration.  

External Help

To assist their teams even more, FAIRR employed a consultant with whom they shared a group session to discuss how they were finding working from home.  Many of the topics that arose centred around managing a work life balance (as Teni said to us, “There is no balance, it’s just all happening at once!”) and how to switch off.  The consultant was able to provide fresh ideas and best practices. 

Socialise 

In the office, there would be water-cooler moments, perhaps welcome drinks after work with colleagues and, of course, during lockdown those face-to-face moments cannot be recreated.  But you can still introduce an element of socialising to welcome a new employee.  At FAIRR, video conferencing meetings are ‘opened’ a little earlier to allow for some chit chat amongst team members and on Friday evenings they have a social video meet.  Quiz nights, themed business meetings, wine tastings – there is so much on offer firms are still able to bond if the opportunities are orchestrated  albeit via a screen.  

Let us know at The Return Hub what has worked for your new employee or if you are a new employee, how did your new employer make you feel welcome?  

Share your experience

Let us know at The Return Hub what has worked for your new employee or if you are a new employee, how did your new employer make you feel welcome?